Analysis of New Age Currents: Book Review

Alice O. Howell
The Heavens Declare: Astrological Ages and the Evolution of Consciousness
(Wheaton, IL: Quest Books,2006, 281pp.)

There are a number of currents of thought which hold that humanity is coming to the end of an historical cycle and is entering into a new age with the start of the new millennium. The most widely spread of these currents of thought is a complex of ideas and practices known as the New Age or the Age of Aquarius. The contemporary New Age began as a movement based on astrological interpretations of history. Every two thousand years or so humanity moves into a new age in which civilization is predominately influenced by the qualities of the particular astrological sign that rules that age. As Alfred North Whitehead has written “In each age of the world distinguished by high activity, there will be found at its culmination some profound cosmological outlook, implicitly accepted, impressing its own type on the current springs of action.”

Thus the Age of Aquarius derives its name from western astrology which holds that each astrological age is determined by the passage of the Earth’s vernal equinox within a particular constellation. It is said that we are transiting from the Piscean period, which inaugurated the Christian era (symbolized by the fish sign used by the early Christians) to the Aquarian Age symbolized by the bearer of water. In this astrological tradition, the Piscean period was preceded by the Age of Aries and the Age of Taurus, of which the ram and the bull are the symbols — animals which are significant in earlier spiritual traditions.

The New Age is often seen as a movement toward self-discovery, a way to harmonize self-awareness with a consciousness of the totality of Nature. In addition to developing earlier forms of Western psychology, there is a growing interest in discovering the Higher Self drawn from Indian philosophy, with its emphasis on yoga, tantra, and the energy centers of the body (the charkas and the kundalini). The Tibetan forms of Buddhism, the Japanese school of Zen, Taoism and its techniques of acupuncture have also contributed much to New Age thought and techniques.

In the New Age there will be a realignment of the Yin and the Yang, the balance between feminine and masculine energies. This balance must be found within each person but also within society as a whole. The role and energies of women must be brought to the fore to balance again what has been a long dominance of the masculine, the patriarchal nature of our institutions. The ever-increasing role of women and women’s groups is a sign of this re-equilibrium.

The New Age draws much of its energy from its emphasis on synergy — the parts working for the common good. As the anthropologist Gregory Bateson has written, our task is to discover “the pattern that connects”, the wholeness underlying the diversity. This implies a New Age way of thinking in terms of patterns and wholeness, interconnections and reawakening.

At the end of each Age, a challenge appears that sets the stage for the coming age, our challenge is to see the unity of life. We are in a watershed period between two ages that requires a radical shift in how we understand human nature and our interdependent relationship with our environment. In this new planetary era, a harmonious future depends on our capacity to live beyond self-interest and to strive for the common good. Most significantly, New Age thought stresses that the common good is not just for the well-being of the human community but for all the kingdoms of life.

Alice Howell, influenced by the work of C.G. Jung and astrological analysis has written a useful guide to the start of the New Age.

Rene Wadlow

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